NEWTOWN, Conn. – Federal investigators planned to visit dozens of shooting ranges and gun stores across Connecticut Sunday, attempting to figure out what led smart but painfully awkward 20-year-old Adam Lanza to murder 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, while townspeople and President Obama prepared to attend an interfaith vigil amid sorrow and confusion.
The tragedy brought forth soul-searching and grief around the globe. Families as far away as Puerto Rico began to plan funerals for victims who still had their baby teeth, world leaders extended condolences, and vigils were held around the U.S.
The gunman’s father released a statement on Saturday.
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured,” Peter Lanza said. “Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired.”
The victims of the shooting were shot multiple times by rifle, the medical examiner said Saturday, and Dr. H. Wayne Carver said the deaths are classified as homicides. Police began releasing the identities of the dead.
Police said they had found “very good evidence” they hoped would answer questions about the motives of the gunman, described as brilliant but remote, who forced his way into the school and killed 26 children and adults in one of the world’s worst mass shootings.
Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police said Saturday morning that the suspect was not voluntarily let into the school.
Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, drove to the school in her car with at least three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back of the vehicle, and shot up two classrooms around 9:30 a.m. Friday, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack — and perhaps saving many lives — by letting them hear the hysteria going on in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.
Lanza was found dead inside the school, according to officials. Eighteen of the children and six more adults were dead at the school and two more children died later, Lt. Vance said at a press conference Friday.
The well-liked principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was believed to be among the dead. A woman who worked at the school was wounded.
President Barack Obama will attend an interfaith memorial service Sunday in Newtown. It will be the fourth time he has traveled to a city after a mass shooting.
The president had planned to travel to Maine Wednesday for an event promoting his positions in “fiscal cliff” negotiations, but the White House canceled that trip because of the shooting.
The tragedy elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, a 20-year-old described as brilliant but remote, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims.
The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives in 2007.
In tight-knit Newtown on Saturday, overflow crowds packed St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Richard Scinto, a deacon, gave a homily.
“In the past 48 hours I’ve said the phrase `I don’t know’ about 1,000 times,” he said. “That not knowing has got to be the worst part of this whole thing.”
At St. John’s Episcopal Church, 54-year-old Donna Denner, an art teacher at an elementary school in nearby Danbury whose classroom was locked down after the shooting, said she feels the same way she did after 9/11 but isn’t sure the rest of the country is.
“I don’t know if the rest of the country is struggling to understand it the same way we are here,” she said. “Life goes on, but you’re not the same. Is the rest of the country — are they going about their regular activities? Is it just another news story to them?”
Lanza’s brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, who was widely and erroneously reported to be the suspect, was questioned in Hoboken, N.J., but authorities said he was not involved. An FBI source tells Fox News that Ryan Lanza and the father, Peter Lanza, have both been cleared and are not longer being questioned.
The vehicle the suspect drove to the school was registered to his mother. At least three guns were found — a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car, authorities said.
Sources told Fox News the guns used in the shooting were owned by and legally registered to Nancy Lanza.
ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun said earlier that there was no evidence Lanza was involved in gun clubs or had trained for the shooting. When reached later in the day and asked whether that was still true, she said, “We’re following any and all leads related to this individual and firearms.”
Dean Price, director of the Wooster Mountain State Range — a shooting range in Danbury — said two ATF agents visited the range Friday night and stayed into the early morning looking through thousands of names on sign-in logs.
He said that he had never seen Adam or Nancy Lanza there and that agents told him they did not find their names on the sign-in sheets.
Law enforcement officials have said they’ve found no note or manifesto from Lanza of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.
Vance said during Friday afternoon’s news conference that police arrived at the scene “within minutes” of a 911 call placed shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday.
“Every door, every crack, every crevice of that school” was checked, Vance said. “The entire school was searched.” He said the shooting occurred inside two rooms in “one section of the school.”
Lanza was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.
Education officials said they had found no link between Lanza’s mother and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there Friday.
President Obama was notified of the shooting about an hour after it occurred, White House officials said.
“Our hearts are broken today,” Obama said in a brief address to the nation on Friday. “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in these past few years, and each time I receive the news I react not as a president, but as a parent.”
“Most victims were children, between five and 10 years old…They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations weddings, kids of their own,” he said, pausing before wiping tears from his eyes.
Sandy Hook Elementary School has close to 700 students.
Newtown is in Fairfield County, about 45 miles southwest of Hartford and 60 miles northeast of New York City.
Source: Fox News